Unlike my previous books, I didn't do any reading or research for Dark Room. I just started writing, beginning in Darla and Hopper's trailer, and a bang on the door in the middle of the night. My influences were on the screen rather than the page – US TV dramas such as True Detective and the work of the film director David Lynch, who explores small-town secrets in the most surreal and unsettling ways.
Why do you like writing in the horror genre?
It's all about atmosphere, trying to cast a shadow over the page. Fear is such a personal thing, what scares one person will leave the next utterly unmoved. It's a real challenge for a writer – it demands a delicate touch in some places and a firm (and often blood-drenched) hand in others.
How do you come up with the characters?
I don't have a hard and fast approach, it varies from book to book. Sometimes I'll spend a long time sketching out characters before I begin, but when I sat down and wrote the first chapter of Dark Room I felt Darla and Hopper come together quite naturally. And Sasha Haas elbowed her way straight on to the page with a dismissive snort, daring me to try and tell her what to do.
Is there a message in your book?
Primarily I'm interested in telling stories – if readers are engrossed and keep turning the pages until the end, then that's enough for me. But Dark Room does touch on issues of self-esteem and body image, especially for young women. It's dedicated to Plain Girls (and Boys) everywhere.
What do you think makes a good story?
A little bit of craft and a lot of heart. A writer who is willing to risk a failure in order to show the reader something they haven't seen before.
What helps you be more creative?
Other people being creative – whether it's great writers, filmmakers, artists or musicians. Increasingly I find inspiration in the pages of history books. One of my previous books The Traitors sprang from World War Two POW stories, and While The Others Sleep was informed by histories of the Raj in India.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
Usually an idea has to sit in my head for a long time before I get the chance to write it, and I like to plot it out pretty thoroughly before I start typing. That said Dark Room came much organically – I wrote the first chapter with Darla and Hopper in the trailer and let the story take me from there. It made for a fun change, although there were moments when I missed the safety net of a firmer plan.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in a shed)?
Funnily enough I was asked this same question the other day, and I'm starting to feel a bit self-conscious about my lack of quirky writing habits! I tend to save my strangeness for the page.
What else are you working on now?
I'm working on a manuscript for an epic historical fantasy that I am VERY excited about, and very much hope will make it to the bookshelves. There's also a hush-hush project that is rather cool but I can't talk about yet – hopefully further down the line. And if Dark Room proves popular, maybe I'll get the chance to write some more YA horror. I think I've got some more murders in me...